Expect to see some spills when dozens of professional rodeo cowboys take to the slopes of the Steamboat Ski Area on Tuesday for the 34th annual Cowboy Downhill.

File Photo

Expect to see some spills when dozens of professional rodeo cowboys take to the slopes of the Steamboat Ski Area on Tuesday for the 34th annual Cowboy Downhill.

Cowboy Downhill turns 34

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If you go

What: 34th annual Bud Light Cowboy Downhill

When: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Base of the Steamboat Ski Area

Cost: Free to watch

Champagne powder. Aspen glades. Skiing cowboys.

Skiing cowboys?

Yes, skiing cowboys are becoming as synonymous with the Steamboat Ski Area as its feather-light snow and world-famous tree skiing.

The annual Bud Light Cowboy Downhill returns to the ski area Tuesday for the 34th time, bringing nearly 100 professional cowboys to the snowy slopes of the Rocky Mountains for an afternoon of competition and laughs.

"It's evolved into a signature event for the ski area that people mark on their calendars - both the spectators and the cowboys," ski area spokesman Mike Lane said.

The event begins at 1:30 p.m. at the base of the ski area with a dual slalom race. Cowboys wearing the requisite chaps and cowboy hats will race down Headwall on skis or snowboards, lasso a Steamboat Ambassador, saddle a horse and cross the finish line. The fastest individual time wins.

The event concludes with a mass-start stampede, pitting all the cowboys against one another in a winner-take-all race down Headwall.

Spectators are encouraged to line up along the course or watch from Gondola Square. An autograph session at Bear River Bar & Grill in Gondola Square will follow the races.

All Cowboy Downhill participants must be members of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association or Professional Bull Riders Association. They also must be entered in the National Western Stock Show in Denver. The stock show runs from Jan. 12 to 27.

The Cowboy Downhill began in the 1970s when Larry Mahan, a six-time World Champion cowboy, teamed up with Billy Kidd, Steamboat's director of skiing, to invite several PRCA stars to Steamboat for some skiing and racing fun.

"Larry called me up and said, 'I want to learn to ski, and I heard you're the guy to teach me,'" Kidd said in a news release. "The next year he brought up a couple friends, and when you get two or three rodeo cowboys together, you've got a contest. That was the beginning of the Cowboy Downhill."

The event has since become a Steamboat Ski Area staple, mixing real skiing cowboys with its Western heritage. Video footage of the event is broadcast around the globe, with networks such as CNN, The Weather Channel and ESPN regularly airing clips of the unique competition.

Gondola Square also will be the site Tuesday for demonstrations from local agriculture organizations, 4-H farm animals and a learn-to-rope clinic.

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